The Peace Train and uranium

Last weekend’s Labor Party conference saw the overturning of Australia’s long-standing ban on selling uranium to India. The sale of uranium has been a particularly divisive topic, and at one time news headlines in Australia were dominated by those protesting No Nukes.

The argument against the sale of uranium consists primarily of the fact that India is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Additional is that India has been in a state of sustained conflict with its nuclear neighbour, Pakistan, and so Australia’s sale of uranium has the potential to be a component of a nuclear conflict.

India’s history on this issue is not exemplary having gained its nuclear weapons status via somewhat deceptive methods. One has to also question why, if India’s intention is to use uranium for peaceful purposes only, why will India not sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

No reason during the current debate has been forthcoming, at least none that I could discern.

One should also wonder just how Australia would be able to supervise the ‘strict conditions’ imposed on India, supposedly in place to guard our uranium from other than approved uses.

However, in the name of balance and fairness here are two of the pro-uranium sale arguments:

The Environment:

This was expressed South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill who stated that Australia should promote nuclear power in developing countries as a way of tackling climate change as this would help India reduce its use of more polluting fuels such as coal.

“Nations like India, who are seeking to expand rapidly, if they don’t have access to non-fossil fuel sources of energy are going to make a dramatic contribution to climate change,” he said.

One could suggest to Mr Weatherill that solar panels and biofuels cannot have the potential dangers as does the sale of uranium.

Weatherill added, “”What I stand for is standing up for South Australia’s interests…”, which one would have to suspect, gets to the core of the matter.

Defence and Why TF Not:

It was up to Defence Minister Stephen Smith to advance the argument for this one which mostly consisted of Why TF not.

~ that India is an “emerging super power”. I am not certain why this would be on the plus side of selling uranium to any country.

The statement from Smith included:

“This is the best way of making sure that India … As it takes its rightful place as the largest democracy and one of the three countries that are emerging as a super power in this century — US, China and India — has voluntarily agreed to go under governance of International Atomic Energy Agency. That’s a good thing. That’s a progress. That’s improvement.”

“This whole game changed in 2008-09 when India agreed to place itself under the International Atomic energy agency and under Nuclear Suppliers Group. And what has occurred as a result of that is that for the first time we have India under that regulation and that is the essential fundamental point to those who don’t agree with this decision (of Labor),” Smith said.

Smith said India has made it clear that it will not sign the NPT and international community has come to accept that and that was why in 2008-2009 the IAEA and NSG agreed that it was best to place India under the governance of the international civil nuclear regulators.

Australia’s decision to sell uranium to India is certain make business interests delighted. Could this push to sell uranium to India have been something to do with the impending super-profits Mining Tax? A compensation prize, and a very substantial one.

Is this an important decision about one of the fastest growing nations in our region, a wise business decision or an encouragement to allow the proliferation of nuclear arms to a country which has been at war with it’s neighbor Pakistan, and on a regular basis since the partition of British India?

98 comments on “The Peace Train and uranium

  1. if India’s intentions is to use uranium for peaceful purposes only, why will India not sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

    Maybe for the same reason that Howard wouldn’t sign Kyoto – internal politics.

    I think Wetherall is playing salesman here – which is probably a fair enough action on his part, however technology transfers for solar and other renewable energy would be a better idea for the future of the world. I have concerns about the future security of nuclear waste in a country where it seems that short term expediency frequently overrules long term safety.

  2. “…if India’s intentions is to use uranium for peaceful purposes only, why will India not sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.”

    For the same reason Israel won’t.

    To sign up means you have to have you nuclear facilities and programs open to inspections along with accounting for every weapon and gram of weapons grade nuclear material.

    India obviously doesn’t want the extent of it’s nuclear weapons program made public.

  3. Great post Min, although I sit on the other side on this one (maybe I’m not such a lefty).
    The Non Proliferation Treaty is as out of date as a 10 year old bottle of milk.
    They are able to get uranium from other sources that are less inclined to monitor what is done with the waste, and particularly spent rods.
    This is like saying that India should not be allowed to buy Uranium, but as long as they buy it from someone else then that is fine.
    We are a valuable trading partner with India and should aim to keep it that way.
    We sell Uranium to the worlds largest dictatorship (China), why not one of the worlds largest democracies…?

  4. Firstly, typo corrected 🙂

    2353, and the issue of nuclear waste was strangely off the radar and India’s capacity to safely contain this.


    India now envisages increasing the contribution of nuclear power to overall electricity generation capacity from 3.2% to 9% within 25 years.

    It seems to me quite a risk to take for a maximum capacity of only 9%.

  5. Wixxy, and that is the other side of my argument too. If India is able to obtain uranium from other countries then why should Australia exclude herself. Agreed, IF Australia is able to supervise useage adequately then there is case to be made. However, not at the expense of other less polluting alternatives.

  6. I believe the only impediment to India signing the NPT is that it would have to give up its nuclear weapons capability. As long as China and Pakistan have this capability, India won’t be signing the treaty.

    As background, only states that signed the NPT before 1970 can have nuclear weapons. India acquired weapons capability in 1974…

  7. Meta found this and I find it instructive.

    Also, it may have been the message which aroused the interest of our galactic neighbours.

  8. As long as China and Pakistan have this capability, India won’t be signing the treaty.

    Which is precisely why we shouldn’t be selling it.

    The only restrictions we have now is that none of the Uranium we sell can go to armaments. This does not stop India from diverting existing resources to armaments and replacing those.

    Personally though, I am still not sold on Uranium as a solution to reducing emissions. It produces as many problems as it resolves. Fukushima should be a reminder to everyone about the catastrophe that nuclear can become. As it is, the repercussions of this disaster are enormous. It looks like it could have been far worst.

  9. Thank you el gordo. I did spot this one a while ago, and it’s certainly very much recommended watching. The ‘action’ which happened during the time of the Cold War is..unbelievable.

  10. Tom R,

    There is also this issue.

    Radioactive cesium was found in milk powder made by a Meiji Holdings Co. unit, causing the shares to fall the most in eight months and raising concern that nuclear radiation is contaminating baby food.

    Meiji this week found traces of cesium-137 and cesium-134 in batches of “Meiji Step” made in March, the Tokyo-based company said yesterday. Levels in the 850-gram (30-ounce) cans are within safety limits and don’t pose a health risk, it said. The investigation was triggered by a customer complaint last month, a spokesman said.

    The finding highlights the radiation threat to food in Japan nine months after the Fukushima nuclear plant was wrecked by an earthquake and tsunami. Prolonged exposure to radiation in the air, ground and food can damage DNA, causing leukemia and other cancers. While infants are especially susceptible, the milk powder may not be a significant threat if contamination is limited to small quantities in isolated batches, said Slim Dinsdale, a food safety consultant based in Norwich, England.

  11. Migs, it used to be to everywhere except it’s just everywhere. 😉 Australia has 31% of known uranium resources and the next country, eastern Europe not sure where has only about 10%. We’re going to rich, rich, rich! Perhaps….

  12. Let’s not get paranoid. People are starting to sound like those who were worried about Menzies selling pig iron to Japan.

    OK, I admit that the iron came back to us in the form of bombs, but I don’t see India building up its military.

  13. Miglo, let’s not overlook that India have not signed the non proliferation treaty. It’s an important point that enters into the equation. I’m assuming that the other countries we sell to have.

  14. Menzies didn’t see Japan building up it’s military either..

    Plus a problem with the atomic bomb is that it has a tendency to nuke a lot more than a WW2 bomb.

  15. The unions saw it. They wanted to have it stopped. They called him ‘Pig Iron Bob’.

    It’s history now that Menzies was a hopeless wartime leader.

  16. Thanks Migs – don’t mind if I do…

    Certainly Roswell – how about a Cascade Premium light? I’ll grab a Fat Yak 🙂

  17. And many Japanese workers’ experience of the nuclear industry…

    For 19 years, he became what’s known in Japan as a “jumper” or “nuclear gypsy” for the way he moved among various nuclear plants. But the nickname that Kazuo disliked most was burakumin, a derisive label for those who worked the thankless jobs he and others performed.

    Such unskilled contractors exist at the bottom rung of the nation’s employment ladder, subjecting themselves to perilous doses of radioactivity.–japan-s-nuclear-gypsies-face-peril-at-power-plants?bn=1

  18. Speaking of Iran, if you want the living shits scared out of you might I suggest you watch the cleverly named but frightening Iranium. No need to tell you what it’s about.

    There’s a country that clearly needs dealing with.

  19. I’m not too sure about uranium sales or nuclear power either Min, especially after Fukushima. Then there’s the waste…

    I just don’t see the NPT as being a valid reason to oppose sales. If you’re going to oppose such things, do so on principle, not the NPT…

  20. Migs, is this something which might be a part of Iranium program that you mentioned.

    Iran has called the explosion an accident, but that hasn’t squelched widespread speculation of possible sabotage to set back Iran’s missile program. Iran has already pointed its finger at alleged Israel and U.S. involvement in the slayings last year of at least two scientists involved in nuclear research.

  21. It’s not just that we have the largest uranium deposits but that we have by far the largest deposits of high grade uranium. This is the grade most used for nuclear weapons production.

  22. Möbius, does that mean we should not sell it?

    I don’t think we should sell it to nations that do not sign the non-proliferation treaty, particularly for the reason ME highlighted.

  23. I can’t argue with that reasoning, but should we be so judgmental over who needs it and who doesn’t? Are we assuming too much that it’ll be used for weapons.

  24. Firstly, my opinion is that to not sell uranium to India was an anomaly which has now been corrected. The other anomaly is that while we sell our uranium to other countries, where goes the reason that Australia should likewise not invest in nuclear power stations.

    However, it is my opinion that while Australia is only beginning to enter into the nuclear energy debate many countries have decided to phase it out to concentrate on renewables.

    Countries, who do not phase-out by free will, will sooner or later be forced to do so because of the limited resources of Uranium. Uranium is estimated to last only for the next 30 to 60 years (1). Its supply might be used up even sooner than fossil fuels. Those countries relying on nuclear power will later buy alternative technologies from those, who now lead the way for renewables.

    As per above nuclear energy is a short-term fix only.

  25. Which is yet another reason for Australia to be investing in the renewable energy sector. While we clearly do not rely on uranium for power, we do rely on the mining sector for our wealth. Australia needs to think of the future instead of quick fix wealth, money in the pocket right now.

  26. A bit off topic but it’s a subject that interests me:

    DON’T get too close. Astronomers say they have taken the measure of the biggest, baddest black holes yet found in the universe, abyssal yawns 10 times the size of our solar system into which billions of suns have vanished like a guilty thought.
    Such holes might be the gravitational cornerstones of galaxies and clues to the fates of violent quasars, the almost supernaturally powerful explosions in the hearts of young galaxies that dominated the early years of the universe.
    One of these newly surveyed monsters, which weighs as much as 21 billion suns, is in an egg-shaped swirl of stars known as NGC 4889, the brightest galaxy in a sprawling cloud of thousands of galaxies 336 million light years away in the Coma constellation.
    The other black hole, a graveyard for the equivalent of 9.7 billion suns, more or less, lurks in the centre of NGC 3842, a galaxy that anchors another cluster known as Abell 1367, 331 million light-years away in Leo.
    ”These are the most massive reliably measured black holes ever,” says Nicholas McConnell, a graduate student at the University of California.
    Observations with the Hubble Space Telescope have shown such giant black holes seem to inhabit the centres of all galaxies – the bigger the galaxy, the bigger the black hole. Researchers say the new work could shed light on the role black holes play in the formation and evolution of galaxies.
    The previous record-holder was in the galaxy M87, a member of the Virgo cluster some 54 million light years from Earth, where a black hole weighed in at a mere 6.3 billion solar masses. The new black holes were even bigger than astronomers had predicted, suggesting there is something special about how the most massive galaxies are built.
    ”Measurements of these massive black holes will help us understand how their host galaxies were assembled, and how the holes achieved such monstrous mass,” McConnell says.
    McConnell and his thesis adviser, Chung-Pei Ma, led a team of astronomers who used telescopes in Texas, Hawaii and outer space to weigh the black holes in the centres of galaxies by clocking the speeds of stars zooming around them; the faster the stars are going, the more gravity – and thus mass – is needed to keep the stars from flying away. They report their work in the journal Nature. Martin Rees, a cosmologist at Cambridge University, called the new work ”an incremental step”. ”It’s good to learn about even bigger ones,” he says.
    Black holes, regions of space where gravity is so intense not even light can escape it, are among the weirdest of the predictions of Albert Einstein’s curved-space theory of gravity – general relativity – so weird that Einstein himself did not believe it. He once wrote to a friend there ought to be a law of nature forbidding such a thing.
    Some of his successors, such as Rees and his Cambridge colleague Stephen Hawking, have spent their careers studying the implications for the physics of objects that can wrap space-time around themselves like a magician’s cloak.
    Such is the fate of some massive stars once they run out of fuel and collapse. The galaxy is littered with stellar-mass black holes detectable by the X-rays from doomed matter swirling around them. And there seem to be giant ones in the heart of every galaxy.
    One question astronomers would like answered is how these black holes got so big, billions of times bigger than a typical dead star. Ma described it as nature-versus-nurture, black holes could grow by merging with other black holes as galaxies merge to get bigger – ”nature” – or by swallowing gas around them – ”nurture.”
    Astronomers say the supermassive black holes in galaxies could be the missing link between the early universe and today. In the early days of the universe, quasars, thought to be powered by giant black holes in cataclysmic feeding frenzies, were throwing energy into space. Where are those quasars now? The new work supports suspicions those formerly boisterous black holes are among us now, but they are sleeping.
    McConnell says: ”Our discovery of extremely massive black holes in the largest present-day galaxies suggests these galaxies could be the ancient remains of voracious ancestors.” Let’s try not to awaken them.

  27. I’m sure that Mobius, Roswell and el gordo have a passing interest too.

    Might explain why all those UFO’s are looking for a new place to land. Naturally they are welcome at the Café.

    We have beer.

  28. Migs, yes interesting indeed. From the pieces that I remember about black holes one theory is that these could be some sort of portal between universes. Or is this just science fiction?

  29. From the pieces that I remember about black holes one theory is that these could be some sort of portal between universes.

    You mean to tell me, the opposition were simply attempting to connect to 11 BILLION universes at the one time!!

    Doc Brown would be horrified

  30. It’s not the destruction of those billions of stars or the billions of possible planets, but the wiping out of possibly billions of life forms is a fairly strong argument against the concept of God. Unless all those life forms had sinned, God must be one hell of a nasty bloke.

  31. Roswell, I think that you have God and religion mixed. God could be heavily into recycling, you don’t know where all those supposed billions of ‘destroyed’ life forms might now exist.

  32. you don’t know where all those supposed billions of ‘destroyed’ life forms might now exist.

    Or perhaps we do 😉

  33. those images suggest that the building blocks in the universe and life itself are all the same.

    Isn’t life just an extension of those building blocks of the Universe?

  34. Or the most obvious explanation, coincidence.

    The universe has the look it has because of flaws in the singularity that went bang.

    The brain cell looks the way it does because it evolved in that manner as the best for the survival of the animal.

  35. That’s a totally ‘way out there’ question, Roswell. I’ll take the liberty of jumping in before Möbius responds, that is, if he had the intention to. I wouldn’t blame him if he ignored it.

    Why? Your question seems to suggest that the universe is a living thing. This, of course, is absurd. Matter can change, due to a number of reasons such as gravitational influences, erosion, human involvement to name a few, but it is lifeless in itself.

    I think ‘change’ would be a better proposition than ‘evolve’.

  36. Migs, you suggest change rather ‘evolve’. But when has anything just changed rather than evolved. Is matter lifeless? Many cultures believe otherwise, that matter is just as vibrant a piece of life as living and breathing organisms.

  37. Migs, human beings were given an imagination for a reason. Why be restricted by that which is only current knowledge.

    Without imagination none of the great discoveries, including those of science would ever have happened.

    Exactly right we ‘new age’ types think things up, consider all the discoveries which were once only the realm of science fiction.

  38. Migs, that is not true. Some might write akin to one the scandal rags instead of as yourself, tackling things with logic plus giving all opinions a fair hearing. If that isn’t enough ‘killer instinct’, then let us all hope that the MSM might read and learn from you.

    BTW, your next post will be Number 180 articles written.

  39. Miglo, I’m not new age or ‘out there’ as you suggest. I simply have a deep interest in some scientific disciplines and I try and keep up with the pace.

    Here are a couple of things that might interest you.

    Scientists recently took a test tube full of sand and blasted all life from within it. It was devoid of all life. Within a short time it was again teeming with life. Simply astonishing.

    NASA has been working on developing symbiotic technology as a means of space travel. That is, matter (a space ship) controlled by thought. They got this idea from the 1947 UFO crash in New Mexico near a town called – what’s its name – it’s on the tip of my tounge – got it, Roswell.

  40. Roswell, I agree. The term ‘new age’ wears the suggestion of having no scientific basis. And your mention of ‘Roswell’ reminded me of how much of today’s science was once mere fiction. One thing that interests me is how yesterday’s vision of ‘the future’ is in many ways quite different that once was once imagined.

    Years ago many people would have envised us living on Mars, but looking at the old sci fi movies, equipped with quite primitive electronics. The present day revolution in this aspect is way beyond what many would have imagined.

  41. That sounds ugly Migs.

    There’s always a possibility that you’ll spot him up there somewhere ….
    on another planet :mrgreen:

  42. On the subject of good news on the issue of tackling climate change..

    The world’s major greenhouse gas emitters have agreed on a roadmap that – if followed – would lead to a global pact to tackle climate change with “legal force” by 2015.

    Reached after a bruising 14-day conference in the South African city of Durban, it is the first time China, the US and India have said they were prepared to make commitments to combat global warming under a single legal agreement.

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